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Next Big Material in Renewable Energy System

KBNNO (or Ba, Ni co-modified KNbO3 nanocrystals)


Wonder Material that can Simultaneously Turn Sunlight, Heat, and Kinetic Energy Into Electricity. A team of scientist has recently discovered that a certain type of mineral has the ability to extract energy from multiple sources at the same time. So they can turn solar, heat, and kinetic energy into electricity simultaneously.

Perovskites materials have drawn great interest in recent times for their great properties and applications. Perovskites are a unique class of materials with crystal structures same as calcium titanium oxide, known as the perovskite structure, or XIIA2+VIB4+X2−3 with the presence of oxygen in the face centres. These materials can be easily synthesized and they have wide applications in low-cost devices such as solar cell, electric vehicle batteries, sensors, lasers and much more.

The wonder mineral discovered by those scientists is a type of perovskite – a family of minerals with a specific crystal structure – and this is the first time researchers have identified one that can convert energy from all three different sources at room temperature to a specific electrical energy. With great flooding in perovskites based solar cell research, these minerals have abilities to become the ‘next big thing’ in renewable energy technology.

Perovskite solar cells have proven to be more efficient than traditional silicon-based solar cells as their efficiency levels hiked to 22.1% in 2016 as compared from 3.8% in 2009. Those fastest growing technology is also proving low-cost technology with more advances in research. But the main disadvantage of solar energy is that – scarcity in sunlight for a particular day or unavailability of solar energy in case of indoor devices.

A research team from the University of Oulu in Finland has been experimenting with different types of perovskite minerals to observe if really any of them could harness energy from multiple sources at the same time, and after their immense effort, they’ve identified the perfect candidate – KBNNO (or Ba, Ni co-modified KNbO3 nanocrystals). Like all perovskites, KBNNO is a ferroelectric material which can generate pyroelectricity. KBNNO has photovoltaic as well as piezoelectric properties which mean that it can generate an electric current from solar energy with additional ability to convert changes in pressure caused by motion into electricity. Though some researcher in past had invented the photovoltaic property along with some other properties of KBNNO but only at extremely low, impractical temperatures. The great success of this group is that they have observed its ability to generate electricity from different source simultaneously at room temperature. The researchers also report that they’ve found a way to alter the composition of KBNNO to improve its heat- and pressure-sensitive properties, so they predict its efficiency levels will increase with further tweaks. Different types of hybrid energy harvesters have been developed by scientists in the near past, but in this case what makes this mineral extraordinary is that all the three properties are rightly present there in the crystal structure – no need to add layers of different materials to capture multiple sources of energy.

As the material design is at the early stage the power of it is limited to electrify a large house, but can be well utilized in small devices like laptops, smart-phones, toys, electronic devices and different smart gadgets as well as street lighting. But after some more work, the researchers are confident that this material can meet up a large extent of our huge energy demand.

Source / Journal Applied Physics Letters

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